- Associated Press - Monday, April 23, 2012

SANFORD, Fla. — George Zimmerman, who slipped out of jail on $150,000 bail in the early morning darkness, went back into hiding Monday and likely fled to another state to avoid threats as he awaits his second-degree murder trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin.

His release from jail came less than a day before the Sanford City Commission rejected by a 3-2 vote the resignation of Police Chief Bill Lee, who was roundly criticized for not initially charging Zimmerman.

Even though authorities can pinpoint Zimmerman’s location with a GPS ankle bracelet, that he must wear round the clock, the public may not see him again for some time. Zimmerman has waived his appearance at his upcoming arraignment next month, so he can stay underground if he wants.

Zimmerman already has experience laying low: For more than a month before his arrest, he eluded the media and his whereabouts were not known. His attorney has suggested he had several options for where Zimmerman can stay this time, and a judge indicated he was willing to let Zimmerman leave the state.


Until the next time he must come before a judge, Zimmerman will have to skip such routine pleasures as eating in a restaurant or taking a long stroll outside, said Jose Baez, a former attorney for Casey Anthony. Anthony, acquitted last summer of killing her 2-year-old daughter, went into hiding after her release from jail.

“He may be free, but he’s not free,” Baez said.

First, Zimmerman must limit who knows his whereabouts to avoid the risk someone will give the secret away, Baez said.

“Unfortunately, the people you think you trust, sometimes you find you just really can’t,” Baez said.

The police chief is on paid leave. He had stepped aside temporarily in March to let emotions cool. Not too long ago, the commissioners gave him a “no confidence vote” that city Manager Norton Bonaparte said still stands. The shooting also led to the local prosecutor recusing himself from the case, and the governor appointing Angela Corey, who eventually charged Zimmerman.

The majority of commissioners on Monday blamed the polarization over the Martin case and its handling by the police department on outside groups. They said they wanted to wait for an outside investigation to conclude into the police department’s handling of the case before accepting the resignation agreement drawn up by the city manager and Lee.

As for Zimmerman, in order to throw off curious onlookers and the media, he could change his look. Anthony went from a long-haired brunette to a bobbed blonde while serving a year of probation on an unrelated charge at an undisclosed location in Florida.

Next, Zimmerman needs to go someplace where he knows few people and they don’t know him, said Evan Ratliff, who wrote the book (or at least the magazine article) on how to vanish in the 21st century. In 2009, Wired magazine challenged its readers to try to find Ratcliff, who deliberately vanished with the help of disguises, prepaid phones, fake business cards and software that protected his Internet identity, at least for a while. Ratliff eventually was caught because readers were able to trace him through the IP address of a computer he had used.

“He needs to be where he is not around people who are known to be close to him,” Ratliff said. “Not a friend’s house. Not a relative’s house.”

Zimmerman needs to refrain from making any public statements, whether via social media sites like Facebook or Twitter or his own website, www.therealgeorgezimmerman.com, both Baez and Ratliff said. Zimmerman is using his website to help raise money for his legal defense.

Early indications are that will be tough for Zimmerman to resist. After a judge agreed to release him on bond, a statement placed on his website said, “GZ hopes to be able to update the site in the next day or two, God willing. He sends his thanks for your thoughts and support.”

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